At last, the long-awaited announcement has been made for the Department of Defense EHR replacement. Cerner has taken the prize, estimated to be worth $9 Billion over 18 years. The original estimate had been $11 Billion. The contest, for all practical purposes had come down to either Cerner or Epic. Other competitors Allscripts and athenahealth were not generally considered large enough to handle an implementation of this size. So, what does this mean for the Healthcare IT market, especially the staff on the ground who will do the work? Here are my predictions for what we can expect over the next several years.
There Will Be Some Controversy
With any large government procurement, you can expect accusations that the winner had an unfair advantage. However, many expected the award to go to Epic, whose CEO Judy Faulkner donated to President Obama’s campaign as well as other Democrats. However, other company’s executives have done the same, and it’s not likely that political donations drove. The operational challenges that come with Vendor-Subcontractor arrangements will probably generate the most controversy.
The Gold Rush Will Be On
Months before the announcement, IT staff with lots of experience were getting LinkedIn messages from consulting groups hoping to line up potential implementation staff. Consultants will now be falling over each other to lure those the right experience into the DoD project. Many will respond, leaving openings to fill in local non-Military hospitals. This will present opportunities for those who are looking to break into Healthcare IT. Shuffling of staff will lead to openings for entry-level positions.
As with any project of this size, there will be lowbrow consulting and training firms that will do anything to either poach staff or to convince newcomers that this will be easy money. Expect to see lots of Web ads and Spam.
There Will Be Cost Overruns
In the private sector, many Healthcare IT implementations go over budget. This tends to happen just before or after go-live when the clinical staff require more training, but the money is gone. If this happens frequently in the non-governmental space, you can bet on it happening with the Cerner DoD contract.
Cerner and Epic Will Have to Work Together
While Cerner won the big prize, Epic still hosts the majority of both providers’ usage and the US population’s health records. Clinical data sharing will need to occur between Military, private, and public health networks. This will likely present opportunities for those who work with Health Information Exchanges1 and Interfaces2.
In the End, It Might Actually Work
Cerner has the deep pockets and many years of operational experience to pull this off, and they likely learned a lot of lessons from a failed IT project for the UK’s National Health System in the early to mid- 2000s.